Mom mistakenly declared dead finally gets money back
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012 10:08PM EST
After months of fighting a government glitch that declared her legally dead, it appears that the federal government has finally declared Ottawa resident Susan Campbell alive.
Campbell, a single mother who has cancer, had her disability payments and benefits cut off two months ago. And when she contacted the federal office to find out why, officials told her she was legally dead.
CTV's Daniele Hamamdjian reported in recent weeks that Campbell's imbroglio was due to a bureaucratic snafu. But despite media attention over the obvious error, officials in Ottawa said that correcting the mistake would take time.
Finally, on Thursday morning, Revenue Canada corrected the problem, and Campbell got her long-awaited disability payment -- two months after she was cut off.
"I checked and there was money in my bank account," an elated Campbell told Hamamdjian on Thursday.
Campbell's first stop: The grocery store, where she bought much-needed food and home supplies.
"It's a blessing," she said.
While it's suspected that a simple keystroke error in a government office caused the problem, it was a split-second that has caused weeks of turmoil for Campbell.
The problem grew worse when a letter from the government was addressed to the "Estate of Susan Campbell," causing the 53-year-old to shake with disbelief.
After her story was reported across the country, there has been an outpouring of support from Canadians, along with other tales of bureaucratic hell.
"I'm just amazed at the outreach of people," Campbell said, referring to the donations of Canadians struck by her misfortune.
The most glaring problem was the government's inability to correct the problem quickly -- which had left Campbell struggling to pay her bills through the bleak winter months.
Gail Shea, the minister in charge of Revenue Canada, spoke to CTV News this week, saying that officials in fact have the ability to fix glitches in a timely manner.
"The CRA does have the ability to fix these mistakes, administrative errors, quickly," Shea said.
Last Friday, Shea phoned Campbell directly and apologized. But Campbell says that when she asked the minister about getting it right as soon as possible, Shea demurred.
"I did ask at that time, whether things were going to go quicker, and she said ‘no,'" said Campbell Thursday.
Liberal MP Scott Brison was quick to pounce on story and brand it as a Kafkaesque tale of government obtuseness.
"This is a combination of incompetence and heartlessness," he said, pointing to Revenue Canada's decades-old computer rig as a key issue.
"We're dealing with antiquated systems," he said.
In fact, a 2010 report from the auditor general warned that the 30-year-old computer system was glitchy and needed to be overhauled.
"If some of these major systems fail, I think the impact could be dramatic on people," said then-auditor general Sheila Fraser.
Shea has said that there are updates for the computer system, but she stressed that it can't happen overnight. So far, $250 million has been set aside to update the system, but it's expected it will take nine months to finish the project.